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Effective Assessment

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

The Early Career Framework states that teachers must learn that... Effective assessment is critical to teaching because it provides teachers with information about pupils’ understanding and needs, but what exactly makes assessment effective?

'Nothing we do to, or for our students is more important than our assessment of their work and the feedback we give them on it. The results of our assessment influence students for the rest of their lives...' Race et al.

An assessment is a task that is carried out by a teacher to work out the level a student is working at. It can also be something that is used to assess where a child is exceeding and where they may need a little more support.

Types of Assessment

  • Formative assessment - Formative assessments are regular, informal assessments that are used by teachers to assess student understanding and inform teaching strategy.

  • Summative assessment - Summative assessments are any method of evaluation performed at the end of a unit or term, allowing teachers to measure a students' understanding against standardised criteria.

  • Diagnostic assessment - an evaluation made of a child’s knowledge and skills in learning, so that a programme of support can be put in place to help them.

  • Self-assessment - Self-assessment is a method of encouraging students to evaluate and assess their own work. It’s extremely important for students because it allows them to reflect on their own work to help them to improve and develop.

  • Peer-assessment - Peer assessment is a method of assessing students’ work where students look at a partner’s work and assess it.

Teachers may develop their own formal assessment tasks that are specific to their learning domain and the context in which they are teaching, for example assignments, role plays, and simulations. Wherever possible, you should make use of externally validated materials, used in controlled conditions when required to make summative assessments.

Effective assessment tasks are transparent so the learner knows the purpose of the task, what is expected and how the task will be assessed. The type of assessment task set depends on the purpose of the task. Sometimes there is an emphasis on tasks that are authentic, open-ended and require deep understanding of an area of content. In other circumstances administering a simple multiple choice assessment will provide the practitioner with useful information. An effective assessment is always appropriate to its purpose and able to be readily administered by the practitioner. In selecting an appropriate assessment, consideration is given to these characteristics: reliability, validity, inclusivity, objectivity and practicality.

Teachers provide learners with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding if the assessment tasks:

  • directly relate to the learning intentions or particular learning outcome

  • are explicit about what learners are required to do

  • are time efficient and manageable

  • include clear and explicit assessment criteria

  • provide challenge for the full range of learners being assessed

  • are fair to all students including those with additional needs

  • are scored or marked based on transparent rubrics

  • are appropriate to where learners are in their learning

Learners can effectively demonstrate what they know, understand and can do if they are provided with the assessment criteria for an assessment task. Effective assessment criteria:

  • are known to the learners​​

  • are clear and explicit

  • focus on the important criteria and substance of the task (not every tiny detail)

  • allow learners to achieve at a high level

  • provide for a range of quality in the work

Informing learners about the materials or activities they are expected to submit for an assessment task ensures they have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding in the form expected by the practitioner and that all elements of a task are completed. Learners should be provided with:

  • stimulus material, case study, problem

  • questions/activities to be completed

  • assessment criteria or rubric​

  • list of what must be submitted​​

An assessment task is a tool, device or constructed situation that creates the opportunity for learners to demonstrate or display the nature and depth of their learning. Effective teachers design assessment tasks that require students to demonstrate knowledge and skills at man levels. Tasks will include lower order processes like comprehension, and higher order processes like synthesis and evaluation. When teachers explain the connections between learning goals, learning activities and assessment tasks, then the students can use learning goals to monitor and progress their learning.

Assessments should be authentic, fit for purpose and reflect the learning program and objectives. They should also be aligned to curriculum achievement standards and integrated into a learning sequence. Wherever possible, assessment tasks should include a range of formative and summative assessment strategies, and teachers will be able to clearly explain the connections between learning goals, learning activities and assessment tasks so that students can use learning goals to monitor and progress their learning. (Effective assessment, 2022)

Dawn Copping, Headteacher at Shaw Primary Academy in Essex speak about effective assessment in the Maths No Problem Blog - and her interview is well worth a watch, you can find it here. She says that the most meaningful information comes from distilling your goals and listening to your learners.

'Assessment does not objectively measure what is already there, but rather creates and shapes what is measured.' (Stobart, 2008)

Sarah Earle has also written at article for The Chartered College of Teaching's magazine "Impact". Principles and purposes of assessment in the classroom focuses on the effective use of assessment and what that looks like in practice.

'An assessment requiring students to use the same competencies, or combinations of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they need to apply in the criterion situation in professional life.' Gulikers, Bastiaens, and Kirschner, (2004, p. 69)

Imperial College London has also produced an overview of what the qualities of good assessment are which you can read here.

Cambridge English have also published this Understanding assessment – what every teacher should know webinar on YouTube. This is webinar is an hour long, however, it has some incredibly useful points about assessment.


[ECF Further reading recommendations are indicated with an asterisk.]

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